Friday, April 06, 2012

A government of half-truths

The problem with the Ma Ying-jeou administration’s fantasy world is that it can only work for so long

One should be wary of governments that tell the public that everything is fine and under control all the time. And yet, this is exactly the dish President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has been serving the public since it came into office in 2008.

Just as with ordinary human beings, people who claim to be right all the time, or who deny even the possibility that something may have gone wrong, reveal one of two things about themselves: Either they’re lying, or they have lost touch with reality. It’s hard to tell which is worse, but the one thing that’s certain is that danger cannot but lurk far behind.

On almost every controversy — the poor handling of the Typhoon Morakot incident, bird flu outbreaks, a dangerous China policy, the theft by the state of private property, delays in the implementation of the second-generation national health insurance program, delays in phasing out conscription in the armed forces, disproportionate police deployments, the US beef flap and recent frictions with Singapore and Sao Tome and Principe to name a few — the Ma government has shot back at critics by saying that everything is fine and that the public should have faith in its ability to manage. The closest it has come to admitting deficiencies in governance was to slap low to mid-level government officials on the wrist, a reprimand that is usually followed by the official being moved to another branch of government or the warm embrace of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

1 comment:

Michael Fagan said...

"... the government exonerated itself of all moral responsibility and instead blamed a faceless system, as if it, too, were somehow a victim, before promising amendments that, in the abstract, will make everything all right."

In a perverse sense, the government is a victim - of incompatible premises: a market economy presupposes private property rights for everyone; yet the exercise of political power, whether excused by democratic form or not, presupposes majoritarian support against a minority. Under that inherent contradiction, "rights" are - at best - no more than contingent privileges; all that can be altered are the specific calculations as to who will have their "rights" revoked when, by whom and for the benefit of whom (Lenin's "who, whom?"). Hence even Tsai Ing-wen was reportedly concerned only about how the Taipei City government could have "avoided the controversy" rather than with denouncing the eviction for what it actually was: theft.

The pan-green opposition are not opposed to the violation of "rights" in principle - in their current ideological form they cannot be - they are merely opposed to anyone other than their preferred targets (e.g. the "wealthy") getting raped. So take care not to become too "wealthy".

"...the Ma administration should have the courage to admit its failures and to fix the fundamentals, rather than continue pretending that everything is fine and under control."

What "fundamentals" could they possibly fix Michael - even if they wanted to? What are they going to do - repeal the Land Expropriation Act, or the Urban Renewal Act? Your lawyer friends will have a better grasp of the details, but my bet for next time would be that if the government were to try anything more morally ambitious than say, laundered hush-money, then they might as well try repealing themselves.